Adventure travel 'can be a solution' for overtourism, says industry chief

Industry leaders champion sustainability as world’s largest adventure travel association hosts its first European summit

Adventure travel can be a solution for overtourism, according to the chief executive of the world's largest adventure travel association. Photo: Frederick Rosa / Unsplash
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Adventure tourism is a vital component of efforts to cultivate a sustainable travel industry, according to a leading figure in the sector.

Speaking at Europe's first AdventureElevate summit, Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) chief executive Shannon Stowell explained that the adventure industry can help.

Speaking in Tirol, Austria, he said: “Many destinations are seeing overtourism problems, yet they still need the tourism economy to deliver. This is where I feel the adventure industry is vital going forward.

“It takes 100 cruise customers to leave $10,000 in an economy. It takes nine overnight package tourists to leave $10,000, and it takes just four commercial adventure travellers to leave the same amount.

“As destinations look at what what's going to be valuable for the future, especially if overtourism is a challenge or a problem, adventure travel is one of those solutions because you can have fewer tourists, and ones who really respect that destination,” said Stowell.

Established 20 years ago, ATTA is the world’s largest adventure travel association and has about 30,000 members, including tour guides, tour operators, destination management companies and travel advisers. According to the latest ATTA data, adventure travellers tend to stay at local lodges, eat local food, buy locally made handicrafts and use local guides more often than conventional tourists.

“It’s all about leakage – the amount of revenue that leaves a destination,” said Stowell. For mass tourism, leakage is reported to be 80 to 90 per cent. That number is much lower for adventure travellers, the chief executive said, with trips averaging a leakage of 30 to 35 per cent.

Stowell explained that adventure travellers often venture to less-visited areas, something he said can help combat overtourism by dispersing visitors. He added that it also means more money can reach outlying areas and support local business.

ATTA’s first summit in Europe has attracted 250 participants from 39 nations and five continents to the Tirol town of Kitzbuhel, one of the most exclusive winter sport resorts in the Alps. During the two-day summit, industry leaders and speakers will report on and discuss various topics, including sustainability and new technologies.

“This event offers the perfect opportunity to present Tirol and its regions to international markets and to exchange ideas with new and existing contacts,” said Karin Seiler, chief executive of Tirol Tourist Board.

The summit is likely to be the first of many. “The idea of AdventureElevate is that we will rotate around Europe,” said Gabriella Stowell, ATTA's vice-president of regional development. “This is the first year and we're very happy to be in Tirol. Although we still don’t have a confirmed location for next year, we are talking to many destinations.”

Updated: May 22, 2024, 11:10 AM